What do nine-headed water serpents, microscopic pathogens, criminals, freak-show artists, and so many diverse communities of the other have in common? In various historical settings and contexts, they all have carried the label “monstrous,” sometimes as a result of unproven assumptions, a lack of scientific awareness, or purposeful demonization by figures of authority. What Makes A Monster? , held simultaneously in five library locations across the two USC campuses, examines preconceived notions about such monsters, and why they elicit responses across the emotional and physical, political and cultural spectrums.The exhibition features rare items from the USC Libraries Special Collections, such as Swiss natural scientist Ulisse Aldrovandi’s 1642 Monstrorum Historia and Reginald Scot’s 1584 The Discoverie of Witchcraft , alongside recently produced works such as a deck of serial killer “trading cards” and a Mayan altar with accompanyinghexes “for the wandering male.”
The multipart exhibition was centered in USC’s Doheny Memorial Library Treasure Room, with satellite displays on topically relevant themes in the USC Helen Topping Architecture & Fine Arts Library, Norris Medical Library, Science and Engineering Library, and the VKC Library for International and Public Affairs.